will.i.am, "willpower" (Interscope Records)
Will.i.am's 2007 album, "Songs About Girls," barely made a splash on the charts, but it was a fine piece of work: He brilliantly wove smooth grooves, pop anthems and hip-hop jams to make one of that year's best albums.
The underwhelming response may be the reason why he recruits popular acts such as Justin Bieber, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus and Chris Brown for "willpower," his fourth solo effort. Unfortunately, the collaborations feel wasted -- and forced.
The hit "Scream & Shout," though catchy and fun, features a barely heard Spears. Anyone else could recite her lines. That song isn't as good as "This is Love," which has Dutch vocalist Eva Simons belting out high notes. The tune, the album's lead single, hit the No. 1 spot in the United Kingdom, though it failed to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 in America, where "Scream & Shout" has peaked at No. 3.
Will.i.am's newest single, "thatPower" with Bieber, screams radio hit, but it doesn't feel special. And Cyrus, who guests on "Fall Down," is forgettable.
Will.i.am is better off on his own, or with acts that seem to bring their own flavor, like "Love Bullets" with Skylar Grey or the playful Nicole Scherzinger-assisted "Far Away From Home." "Hello," co-produced by Afrojack, is a definite party starter, and "The World is Crazy," with Dante Santiago, is reflective and appealing.
"Willpower" continues the recent dance tradition that helped the Black Eyed Peas dominate the charts with hits like "Boom Boom Pow," "I Gotta Feeling" and "Just Can't Get Enough." However, the pounding beats feel repetitive and the energy is somewhat dead. Those dancing shoes are worn out.